Monday, January 27, 2020

New Chapter "What It Was"

Hello readers,
sorry for the delay today.
I was able to look over the chapter today though and edit it and hope it's ready to be posted.
Well here is Chapter 22 of "What It Was".
Please let me know how you like the chapter. Thanks to the readers who do take a moment and let me know that they are out there.
Hugs, Dani


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Devo Diary is back!!

Hi everyone! Devo Girl here back at last with more installments in the ongoing trainwreck that is my life. I can't believe it's been almost a year since I went on hiatus to publish my novel. Big thanks to everyone who helped with beta reading, and who bought a copy and posted a review. You're the best! If you haven't yet, why not check it out?

For any new readers out there, Devo Diary is my 100% true memoirs of my life as a dev. I have changed names and some identifying details but that's all. If you want to get caught up, the Table of Contents is here, or you can just click on the tag Devo Diary. But you don't have to start at the beginning. The latest chapter is a pretty good jumping on point.

When we left off, I had just gotten burned by hookups with two different paras, both super hot but assholes in their own special ways. It's January 2006, the Paradevo message board is a few months old and getting very active. Suddenly I'm meeting so many wheelers online, but this chapter is an object lesson in the pitfalls of online relationships.

Chapter 58: Tibo

Please leave comments! I know it's hard to keep readers when I post so intermittently but I really appreciate every comment. Thank you!

I plan to post every other week on Wednesdays.

Monday, January 20, 2020

New Chapter "What It Was"

Hi everyone,
Happy Monday!
Hope everyone is well. Thanks for still reading this story and to the readers who take the time to comment, it means a lot to me.
Today's chapter may be a bit shorter, I worked all weekend and also won't have time today, Monday to do much editing. I hope the chapter is decent enough to post and hope you enjoy reading.
I give you Chapter 21 of "What It Was".
Let me know what you think and have a wonderful week,
Hugs, Dani

TOC

Friday, January 17, 2020

Free Friday Short Story

Surprise! Okay, so this one definitely needs an explanation: I recently stumbled upon this new machine learning model that has digested a big portion of the internet and produces rather convincingly well-written text. And I thought: Well, what do you do if you encounter strong competition in your field? You make them collaborate with you! So I did. This is the result of me writing porn with the kind contribution of OpenAI’s language model GPT-2. How did it turn out? Well, the AI and I apparently didn’t always agree with each other on the genre we were writing. So while I was definitely aiming for porn, the AI may have dived into horror/gore/fantasy from time to time (it may or may not have been on purpose, I'm still debating that…). I think I may have managed to pull it back from there with great effort, though not always completely successful… But see for yourself. In any case, I find that the AI added quite some… unique layers, and created, what I wasn’t expecting, not only a few very cheesy moments but also showed a stunning knowledge of the intricate details of human relationships and was, at times, wonderfully poetic. My favorite line? I can only imagine how cold it feels with a body like mine and a body that isn't mine. Just… Wow? I mean, I have absolutely no idea what this means, but it’s absolutely beautiful, isn’t it? In its own, quizzical way :D With that, enjoy weird/hot:


Take care! Lovis

Monday, January 13, 2020

New Chapter "What It Was"

Hello readers
another week and I managed to get a chapter ready.
I have to admit I'm not sure how people feel about this story anymore. I know it's different and maybe doesn't have the devy stuff to it that people seem to like. Devness is always a topic in my stories but it's not your typical dev romance, I know that. It is still romance and I hope it touches some of you. I was hoping that more of you would let me know how you feel about the story when I started posting again.
Thanks to the few readers who commented so far, I appreciate it a lot and I try to use this as my motivation to keep going with "What It Was".
If you are out there and can give me a sign, please do so.
Thank you for taking the time to read and I hope you enjoy this next chapter Chapter 20
Hugs,
Dani

TOC What It Was

Monday, January 6, 2020

New Chapter - What It Was

Hi friends of "What It Was",
sorry for the delay but here is Chapter 19 of What It Was.
Thanks to everyone who came back and picked up reading the story again. Let me know if you like it. You mean a lot to me.
Hugs, Dani
torninbetweenseit71@gmail.com

Table of Contents

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

High School Reunion, Part 2


Ryan

The drive to my old high school is almost identical to what it used to be 10 years ago. Mostly because I only live 10 minutes from my parents’ house. That’s not an accident. After I got hurt, I lived with them through all of the rest of college, and while I wanted my independence, there are times when I still need help and it’s been a lifesaver to have them so close. 

I had a car the last year of high school, and I remember I always had to park way in the back of the student lot. The difference tonight is even though the lot is packed, I get a spot right near the entrance. These handicapped plates are good for something.

I spend a couple of minutes sitting in the car, trying to psych myself up. I know tonight is going to be a pain in the ass. It’s always hard when I run into somebody I knew back in high school. Some of them heard about my accident, but most of them don’t know the extent of what happened to me. The permanence of it. They always look shocked. Then they make a patronizing comment about how great I look.

I’m sure tonight I’m going to be told how great I look a lot.

But it could be worse. Like I said to Ethan, I’m independent. I’ve got a great job. I think I look at least halfway decent in my blue button up shirt and khaki slacks. I didn’t cut myself shaving. I’m not losing my hair.  There are plenty of positive boxes checked off for me. Tonight is going to be fine. I’ll get through it.

Maybe it’ll even be a good thing. I avoid going places in town because I’m so worried about running into people I used to know and seeing the reaction to what happened to me, so this will take care of that problem. Like ripping off a bandage.

And then I see the four steps to get into the school.

I have no memory of there being any steps to get into the school. I’m sure when I was a student, I just darted up them every day without thinking about it. It’s the sort of thing you don’t notice when you’re on your feet. But now I’m looking at these stupid steps, and wishing I had never made that promise to Ethan.

I can jump one step. Barely. If I were a paraplegic, I’m sure I could do one step easily, but without any strength in my hands, it’s challenging. It usually takes me a few tries and it kills my shoulders.  But four steps? Forget it.

There’s got to be a handicapped entrance. It would make a lot of sense if the entrance were next to the handicapped spot in the parking lot, but whatever. I have long since given up trying to make sense of accessibility.

I watch as people in their late 20s make their way into the building. Some of the faces look familiar to me. Maybe it won’t be so bad to make an entrance through the back.

I circle the building until I find a ramp leading to the door with the square handicap button next to it.  I let out a sigh of relief. I had been sure I’d find an entrance around somewhere, but I wasn’t sure about the door situation. Opening doors is really difficult. If the door has a handle like the one I’ve got at home, I can manage, but it isn’t always pretty.  A doorknob—forget it.  I can’t turn doorknobs.

Between my wheelchair accessible home and the hospital where I work, the two places where I spend most of my time, I’m spoiled.  I start to forget how inaccessible the entire rest of the world is.  Nothing is designed for people in wheelchairs. A few weeks ago, a colleague at work invited me to a dinner party he was having at his house. I wanted to go and socialize with him out of work, but when I asked him about stairs, his face turned red and he admitted he had six to get into his front door and four in the back. I had to turn him down.  Just one reason why my social life sucks.

I push myself up the ramp to get to the back door, and discover it’s steeper than regulation. Like, much steeper. This might not be a problem for a guy with full arm function, but for me, it’s a problem. I don’t even know how they got away with this.  Doesn’t anyone inspect these fucking ramps?

So I get halfway up the ramp and roll right back down to where I started.

I’m cursing under my breath when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I look up and see a familiar face. It’s Mr. McIntyre, who I had for math two years in a row.  He was middle-aged back then, and now he has more gray than brown in his hair and a lot more wrinkles. But I still remember him. He was a really good math teacher.

“You need a push, son?” he asks me.

I do have small handles in the back of my chair, but I fucking hate it when people push me. At least he asked permission.  There’s nothing worse than when somebody just grabs my handles and starts pushing me. But in this case, I need it. Given my limited arm strength, there are times when I need a push. That’s why the handles are there.

“Yeah, thanks,” I breathe.  I hesitate, thinking he probably has no idea who I am or what I’m doing here. “I’m—”

“I recognize you,” Mr. McIntyre interrupts before I can introduce myself.

“Oh.” I can’t say I’m not surprised. Maybe the teachers heard about my accident.

Mr. McIntyre pushes me up the ramp easily, then helps me with the door too, because the stupid handicap button doesn’t seem to work. I don’t know what I’m gonna do when I need to get out of here, but I don’t worry about that then.

“Are you OK now?” he asks when we’re inside the school. “Do you need help with anything else?”

Christ, I hope not. “No, I’m fine.  Thanks.”

He nods. “Where’s your mother? Is she coming too?”

I blink at him. I didn’t expect that question, but again, I’m not entirely surprised. When I’m out in public, people not infrequently ask if I have a parent or a nurse helping me. “No. I’m here myself.”

“Really? Good for you.”

I flinch as he pats me on the shoulder again. But at least it’s better than patting me on the head. When people do that, I want to punch them in the nose.  If I could land a punch anymore, which I can’t.

“Well, it was good seeing you again, Kenny.” he smiles at me. “Have fun at the reunion.”

Kenny? What the…?

Then it hits me. There was a kid named Kenny in the class below me (not even in my fucking class, for chrissake) who had pretty severe cerebral palsy and used a power wheelchair to get around. I didn’t really know him, because the only kids I knew who weren’t in my grade were the ones who played football, but you had to notice the kid zipping around the halls in a power chair.  From what I remember, his speech was pretty affected too. We had some assembly once where he spoke, and we were kind of laughing about the fact that they had this kid giving a speech and we couldn’t understand one word he was saying.

Mr. McIntyre thought I was that kid.

Well, all my confidence has just flown out the window.  I really, really hope they have alcohol at this thing, because I need a drink like an hour ago.

I push myself to the entrance of the gymnasium, which is set up with tables and folding chairs inside, which reminds me of prom 10 years ago. I went with Ashley DiMarco. And she sucked me off after it was over, which may have been part of the reason I went with her.  There was another girl I would have preferred to go with, but she blew me off. At least I got the blowjob.  Especially since I can’t feel my dick anymore.

I hang back at the door, too chickenshit to actually go inside. I’m glad Ethan isn’t here to see this. He’s right. He’s fucking right. I’m embarrassed about how I look in this chair.  You can’t tell anything is wrong with my hands when they’re lying in my lap, but the second I try to do something—anything, even push my chair— it’s obvious they don’t work. My fingers are too curled and soft.  When I look down at my blue button up dress shirt, I can see the way my belly juts out. We’re all about 28 years old and most of the guys are still in decent condition. Nobody has a gut like I do.  Like somebody’s overweight dad.

I adjust my position in my chair, trying not to slump. It’s hard because I have no abdominal muscles. Laura was telling me I should get a new chair because she thinks this one is not great for my posture (because just what you want is the girl at work you think is hot to tell you that your posture sucks), but I’ve only had it three years and the insurance won’t pay for a new one yet.  And a decent wheelchair is not cheap.

I look around at my former classmates, deep in conversation.  Well, I’ve got to go in eventually.

I wheel over to the table just inside the gym, where two guys from our class are signing people in. I recognize one of them, but I couldn’t tell you his name. He wasn’t on the football team.  I clear my throat and they look up with me.

“Hey!” one of the guys says.  “Kenny! I didn’t realize you were in our class!”

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. “No.” I clear my throat again. “My name is Ryan Porter.”

The two guys exchange looks. “Oh,” the one on the right says. His nametag says Owen. Again, it all seems vaguely familiar. “Ryan Porter. I remember you. Weren’t you… I mean, you didn’t used to…”

“I was in an accident,” I mumble. People are starting to stare. I just want to get this over with. “So… Do I take a name tag or…?”

“Oh, sure.”  Owen grabs one off the stack. He picks up a marker and hesitates. “Do you need help or…?”

I’m not going to lie. My handwriting is shit. It wasn’t great before, but now it’s barely legible. But I think I can handle writing my four-letter name with a big magic marker. if it’s not legible, maybe that’s for the best.

“I can do it,” I say.

I realize a second too late that the marker still has a cap on it.  Damn it.

I bite off the cap of the marker, then spit it out onto the table while Owen pretends not to gawk at me.  (When you don’t have use of your hands, your teeth become an important tool.)  I write “Ryan” on the sticker in big block letters.  It looks like my name, more or less. I affix it to my chest and wheel myself into the gym.

By now, I’m aware of the fact that half the room is staring at me. I’m used to being stared at. I don’t know what is so goddamn interesting about a guy in a wheelchair, but obviously something, because people look at me like my hair is on fire. So the staring is nothing new, but usually not this many people at once.  More than ever, I want to leave.

“Ryan?”

I turn my head in the direction of the voice calling my name. At least it wasn’t somebody else calling me Kenny. Thank you, name tag.

The voice belongs to Jim Doherty.  Jim was one of my best friends back in high school. He knew I got hurt and came to visit me in the hospital when he was on spring break.  Once.

“Hey,” I say. I lift a hand to greet him, which only draws attention to my disability. Oh well.

Jim scratches at his dark hair. Back in the day, we were about the same height. He towers over me now. He’s kept in good shape too. “I didn’t realize that you were still…”

You might have realized it if you bothered to come visit me again. It was really hard getting abandoned by all my former friends after my accident. But I didn’t come here to confront anyone. So I bite my tongue and say, “Yeah. I’m in here for the long-haul.”

“Man, that sucks…”  Jim shifts awkwardly from foot to foot. He looks like he wishes he didn’t come over here.  “I, um… I’m sorry.”

I shrug.  Like I couldn’t care less.

Jim flashes me the phoniest smile I’ve ever seen.   “Anyway, you look great!”

And so it begins.

 


Hannah

Jean is driving way too slowly.

I just want to get there already. I’ve been waiting for this moment for 10 years. I’ve been waiting to hurt Ryan Porter the way he hurt me. I mean, I do want to see my old friends, catch up on the last 10 years, blah blah blah, but I’m not going to lose sight of my main goal here. Ryan is going to pay.

“Do you think you’ll recognize him?” Jean asks as she (finally!) pulls into the school parking lot. We are late, and we’re probably going to have to park way in the back. Which means I’m going to have to hoof it across this giant parking lot in the most uncomfortable pumps known to man.

“Of course I’ll recognize him.  It’s only been 10 years.”

“People can change a lot in 10 years,” she points out. “Maybe he’s fat and bald now.”

I literally cannot picture Ryan Porter being fat and bald. He was gorgeous in high school.  I’m sure he’s still gorgeous. Of course, if he isn’t, that will make what I need to do so much easier.

You’re probably wondering what the bastard did to me.

I don’t want you to think that I am so shallow that I would just fall in love with one of the hottest and most popular guys in school for no reason. When Ryan sat down behind me in Mr. McIntyre’s calculus class during the first term of senior year, I couldn’t have cared less. Yes, he was eye candy.  But so what?

It surprised me more than anyone when I actually started to like him.

The thing was, Ryan was actually nice. During the course of the semester, we became friends.  Also, Ryan wasn’t great at calculus, and it was cute when he used to ask me for help. I never minded, and he would always crack little jokes while we were doing math together. When he saw me in the hall, he would always wave so enthusiastically.

And then he started inviting me to football games. I’ve never been friendly with anyone on the football team, but he seemed so excited for me to show up. And even though I never particularly liked football, I started going to all his games at our home field. And after the game was over, he’d always come over and talk to me.  He was always kind of dirty and sweaty and so sexy.

So yes, I developed a crush on him.  I was a cliché – the nerdy girl in love with the football hero. But in my head, I genuinely thought it wasn’t one-sided. I really believed he felt something for me.

I was disappointed when I didn’t end up in any of the same classes as Ryan during the spring semester, but it wasn’t that big a surprise since my schedule is packed with advanced placement courses, and that wasn’t his thing.  But it seemed like more than ever, Ryan was stopping in the hallway to talk to me. One time he walked me to English class, and when the bell rang, he took off running in the other direction, which made me think that he made himself very late for fifth period.

And then on Valentine’s Day, I got the rose during homeroom.

Every Valentine’s Day, people could purchase roses to give to their boyfriend or girlfriend during homeroom. Over four years of high school, this was my very first rose. And when I saw the name Ryan on the tag, I was floored. Even more so when I read the note:

Meet me at Pete’s after school.

Pete’s was a diner a few blocks away from the school where kids hang out. I had always fantasized about having a date at Pete’s. And now it was coming true.

Or so I thought. I showed up at Pete’s promptly after school ended, but Ryan wasn’t there. I waited an hour, and he still didn’t show. I finally ordered a milkshake so I wouldn’t look quite so conspicuous sitting there by myself.

I waited a full hour and a half. I was sure Ryan got hung up at practice, and maybe he wanted to make sure he showered before he met me. When he finally walked in with his football buddies, I was relieved. Until I realized he wasn’t coming over to me. He was just looking at me. And so were his friends.

And they were snickering. 

That’s when I finally got it. Ryan wasn’t in love with me. He didn’t want to meet me here for a date. This was all an elaborate prank on his part to make me look stupid.  And I had fallen for it.  I bet his friends got a good laugh out of the whole thing.  This dorky girl is so into me, I bet she’ll wait for hours for me to show up.

After 10 years, it still hurts to think about that day. When the boy I loved made a fool out of me. That’s part of why I was so motivated to lose all the weight and reinvent myself. I didn’t want to ever be the subject of mockery again.

But the idea of getting revenge didn’t occur to me until I got the invitation for the ten year reunion.

It’s so perfect. I’m going to do to Ryan exactly what he did to me. I’m going to make him think that I like him. I’m going to make him think he is going to score. And then at the last second, I’m going to leave him with a pair of blue balls.

My feet are aching from my stupid high heels by the time I get to the gym. Whoever designed these shoes must hate feet. I limp over to the table by the entrance, where two guys from our class have a sign in sheet with a bunch of name tags. 

I recognize one of them as Owen Johnson. He was my senior prom date, after things exploded so spectacularly with Ryan. It was not a great night. After a couple of drinks, Owen turned into Grabby McGrabberson.  I had to slap him to get him to stop. Funny how I’m not really that mad at him anymore though, not like I am at Ryan. I guess I can’t blame the guy for trying to get some on prom night.

Owen’s eyes widen when he sees me. A big smile spreads across his lips. “Wow. You can’t possibly have been from our class. I would definitely remember you.”

“I’m Hannah Leonard,” I mumble.

Owen looks stunned. “Oh my God. Hannah, you look amazing.”

“Thanks.” I scribble my name on the name tag, but I have no intention of using it. You don’t pay this much money for a dress then put a sticky name tag on it. “Um, by the way, do you know if… If Ryan Porter is here?”

“Ryan Porter?” Owen raises his eyebrows like I’ve said something really meaningful.

“That’s right.  He used to be the quarterback on the football team…”

“Uh…” He frowns.  “Yeah.  He made it in. Surprising, huh?”

Why would that be surprising? “OK, thanks.”

Owen scrambles to his feet. “Wait. I’m almost done here, we should get caught up or—”

But I don’t have the energy to deal with him right now. I came here to see one person and it’s not Owen Johnson.

The gym is filled with a bunch of tables, but thankfully no cheesy decorations like there were for prom. I guess there wasn’t a reunion committee with nothing better to do than put little cutouts of fish all over the walls.  (The theme for our prom was “the ocean.”) I glance around at the vaguely familiar faces of my former classmates. I definitely had friends back in high school, but it’s funny how I don’t have much desire to talk to any of them anymore.

“Do you see him?” Jean asks me as she materializes by my side. She has written her name on that white name tag and stuck it square on her dress.

I scan the room more intently. It’s funny how everyone has grouped off similarly to the way they did in high school. The nerds are together, the art kids are together, and there are the football jocks by the food. I look at their faces, but Ryan isn’t among them.  But he’s here. He’s definitely here. Owen said so.

And then I catch sight of him. He’s sitting at one of the tables, talking to some girl that I’m pretty sure used to be a cheerleader. And…

Oh my God, he’s still just as gorgeous as he used to be.

No. That’s not true. He’s more gorgeous than he used to be. He was handsome before, but now he’s gotten really sexy. His face has filled out, and the shorter, more professional haircut suits him. He smiles crookedly at the cheerleader and my heart flutters in my chest. My heart hasn’t fluttered in my chest in over 10 years. What the hell is wrong with me?

My legs feel a little rubbery. My whole plan is going down the drain. Ryan can’t be this much hotter than me. If he is, then he might reject me, and not only will I not get my revenge, but he’ll have done the same damn thing to me that he did in high school.  He’s probably planning right now to hook up with the cheerleader.  I have no shot.

“Hannah?” Jean says.

“God,” I murmur.  “He’s…”

“I know,” Jean says.  “I didn’t realize he never recovered.”

“Recovered?”  I look at her and frown. “What do you mean?”

She glances over at him and then back at me. “I mean, I heard he was in that accident playing football. I didn’t realize he...”

I look across the room back at where Ryan is sitting. There is something different about him. About the way he sitting. He’s...

Oh my God.

Ryan Porter is sitting in a wheelchair.

I clasp my hand over my mouth. “I had no idea…” The Jell-O feeling in my knees has only gotten worse. “Do you think it’s… permanent?”

“Well, I heard about the accident freshman year in college.  So I’m guessing by now, if he’s still in a chair, it’s permanent.” She narrows her eyes at me. “So you’re going to call off this crazy plan now, right?”

Am I?

I look at Ryan, sitting in that wheelchair across the room. All of a sudden, he doesn’t seem out of my league anymore. He seems like somebody who would be extremely grateful if I showed him some attention.

The game is still on.

To be continued...

High School Reunion, Part 3

Ryan

It was better when I was sitting alone.

Of course, I wish the punch I was drinking had some alcohol in it. At our prom, somebody spiked the punch, but nobody has done it here. Now that we’re old enough to drink, there’s nothing to drink. How are we supposed to get through a fucking reunion without any alcohol? This is just cruel.

Anyway, I was sitting alone for about 15 minutes when Courtney Taylor slid into the seat next to me. Courtney was a cheerleader, so of course I knew her. We went out a few times. Or did we? I can’t believe I don’t remember.

Courtney looks good. I can’t say she doesn’t. She was a knockout back in high school, and she doesn’t look all that different—maybe a few extra pounds but it suits her. Most people look pretty much the same. Except me.

So I wasn’t that upset when she sat next to me. I thought it might be fun to catch up. But now that we’re talking, it’s not fun.  It’s awful. I want to shoot myself in the head.

“And who do you live with?” she asks me. When I look at her blankly, she adds, “Who takes care of you?”

I grit my teeth.  “I live alone.”

“Seriously?” Her eyes become saucers. “Wow. That’s hard to believe.  But you must have a nurse or something, right?”

“No.”

She looks shocked. Granted, I do have somebody who cleans my place and does my laundry for me. And my parents are a quick 10 minutes away in case I need something. While I’m able to transfer myself, I can’t get into my chair from the floor. So a couple of months ago, when I slipped doing a transfer, I was able to call my dad to help me get back in my chair rather than having to call the paramedics. 

But I did live with my parents for about three years after my accident, and for the first year or so they were helping me a lot with pretty intimate things.  And then when I was in the hospital with a bad urinary tract infection a couple of years ago that spread to my kidneys, I stayed with them again for two months after being discharged from the hospital, and I was right back to needing help with dressing and bathing. I’m completely independent right now, but I can’t deny the fact that even a mild illness is enough to take that away from me. So I’m careful.  I stay home a lot during flu season.

Courtney starts going on and on about her job as an art teacher, which is sort of boring but fine. I don’t mind when she talks about herself. It’s when the questions turn to me that things get bad.

“So what do you do all day?” Courtney asks me.  “Do you get out much?”

“Well, I’m a therapist,” I say. “I have a degree in counseling.  I work in a rehab unit.”

“You work?” She blinks her pretty blue eyes. “Wow, that’s amazing, Ryan.”

I don’t know what to say to that.

“Really.” She puts a hand on my shoulder, but quickly yanks it away before I can get the wrong idea. “That is so inspiring. I mean, I bet a lot of people in your situation would just stay home and collect disability. But you’re out there working.”

“Yep,” I say.

“Honestly,” she says, “if I were in your situation, I would probably not even want to leave the house. Like, I would totally just want to kill myself. I mean, I’m really in awe of you.”

“Uh…”

This is so goddamn insulting. Does she not see that on any level? But I can’t entirely blame her. After I got hurt, I couldn’t accept the fact that I was going to be in a wheelchair the rest of my life. I was determined to walk again. I told everyone that they were going to watch me walk out of the hospital. And then when it started to become obvious that was never going to happen, I did get really depressed.

My whole life in a wheelchair. Never walk again. Never move my fingers again. That’s fucking heavy.

But I got over it. I started taking antidepressants and doing talk therapy with somebody like me, and I made my life into something good. I’m happy to be alive. I’m just not happy to be here.

Courtney starts blathering on about her boyfriend, who is some kind of doctor. She doesn’t ask me if I’m seeing anybody. Is it obvious I’m not? How could I be, right?

 Well Courtney is talking and my mind is wandering, a girl comes over to our table. I look at her, trying to place her. There’s something really familiar about her, but I can’t figure out who she is. And she’s not wearing a name tag like the rest of us losers.

She’s also really hot. I mean, Courtney is pretty, but this girl is so freaking sexy, my breath catches in my throat. That dress she’s wearing… Goddamn. And there’s something about her lips and her eyes. Jesus.

She’s so far out of my league, I shouldn’t even be looking. But I can’t seem to make myself stop.

“Ryan?” she says.  “Is that you?”

My heart speeds up. I had assumed she was looking for Courtney. But now it turns out this super sexy girl is looking for me. I clear my throat which has become suddenly very dry. “Yeah. It’s me.”

She smiles. And it’s not that patronizing smile Courtney gave me when she sat down. It’s something different. Christ, who is this girl?  I wish I could remember.

 Courtney takes this opportunity to slip away, and the girl falls into her empty seat. I had put my hands on the table while Courtney and I were talking, but now I put them back into my lap. I don’t want her to see them.

“I’m really sorry,” I say. “I’m trying to remember you, but…”

She winks. “Hannah Leonard.”

Hannah Leonard? Holy shit, this girl is Hannah Leonard? How is that possible? I try not to let the shock register on my face, but it’s hard. I remember Hannah. I remember her really well, but she didn’t look anything like this.

“You look different,” I say. Did that come out wrong? I don’t want her to think I was calling her ugly in high school. Because she wasn’t ugly. Just the opposite. “I mean, your hair was… different, right?”

“A little,” she concedes. She plays with one of her silky blonde locks. “I’m surprised you remember me.”

“Of course I remember you!” I shake my head. “I used to have—”

I stopped myself mid-sentence. I was about to tell Hannah that I used to have a huge crush on her. It’s the truth. Hannah was in my math class and she was so freaking smart. I was in awe of how quickly she picked everything up because math was my worst subject. But she wasn’t just smart.  She was really cute. She had this great smile with a dimple in her left cheek. I had dated plenty of girls before I met Hannah, but I never liked any of them the way I liked her.  I used to think about her all the time. When she came to my football games, all I could think about was whether she was watching me. I only got the football scholarship because I was trying so hard to impress her.

I was never the kind of guy who was nervous around girls. But I was nervous around Hannah because she was so different from the kind of girls I usually dated. I couldn’t read her. I thought maybe she just thought of me as a dumb oaf.  But I was so into her that I had to do something about it.

So on Valentine’s Day, I sent her a rose.

Well, I fucked up. She seemed furious at me for having done it. She never spoke to me again after that stupid rose.  What a mistake.

And now, for some reason, she’s sitting next to me at the reunion, no longer looking upset about the rose. And looking pretty damn amazing. But she was sexy as hell before. She didn’t need to change anything about herself. I like her either way.

She still has that dimple. Damn, she’s sexy.

“Well, you look great,” she says to me. And she doesn’t say it the way Jim and Courtney and all those other people said it. She says it different.

“Thanks,” I say.  “So do you.  I mean, I’m sure you know you do. But…”

I stop myself before I say something too dumb.

“I was hoping to see you here, actually,” she says.

I raise my eyebrows. “Really? Because I thought you were… You know, mad at me.”

She waves her hand. “Water under the bridge.”

“Good.” My shoulders relax.  “Because I’m really glad to see you too. You have no idea. So far, this reunion…” I glance around at the room full of people I don’t want to talk to. “It’s been awful.”

“I’ll bet.”  She crosses her legs and I suck in a breath. “Well, maybe I better stay here with you then.”

Thank you, Ethan. Thank you for making me come here tonight. It turns out this night might not be so bad after all.

 

Hannah

This night isn’t turning out anything like I thought it would.

I imagined running into Ryan here and flirting a bit, then suggesting we take off and go to one of the empty classrooms, then I leave him high and dry. It was a simple plan. Perfect in its simplicity.

But instead, we’re sitting together at the table, talking and laughing. And I’m not just laughing because I’m trying to trick him into going off with me. I’m laughing because he’s making me laugh. And because the way he’s looking at me is making me a little giddy.

It is really not supposed to happen this way.

“So remember how Mrs. Zellner was always droning on?” he says. “Well, I fell asleep once in her class and started snoring.”

“You did not!”

“I did! I couldn’t help it! I’d been up late studying the night before and I just couldn’t keep my eyes open.”

“So she found out?”

He nods. “That’s the worst part. She let the entire class go five minutes before the bell, so when the bell rang, I woke up and I was the only kid in the class and she was standing over me.  I almost died.”

I clasped my hand over my mouth and let out a squeal. “Oh my God, that sounds terrible. Did you get detention?”

“You bet I did.”

Ryan wasn’t a bad kid in high school.  He could be a bit of a class clown, but he was a nice kid. He never mouthed off to teachers like some guys.  He wasn’t a geek like me, but he tried hard.  I always thought he had a good heart.

Maybe that’s why I was so surprised and hurt by what he did to me.

Ryan reaches for the cup of punch on the table.  I notice the way his fingers don’t move and there are deep grooves between the tendons in the back of his hands.  He struggles a bit to pick up the cup, get his fingers around it, then take a drink.  But he does it.

When he realizes I’ve been watching him, his ears turn pink. “Sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“For…” He hides his hands back down on his lap.  “Nothing, I guess. Never mind.” He chews on his lip. “Elephant in the room. I’m sure you’re wondering what happened to me.”

Well, I know he was in a football accident. But that seems to just be the tip of the iceberg. “A little.”

He lets out a breath.  God, he still so cute. I wish I weren’t having these thoughts. I thought it was going to be so much easier with him in the chair, but it’s not. At all.

“I got this stupid football scholarship to college, but then I broke my neck the first season.” He winces. “I was diving for the ball and this guy tackled me at the same time, and I guess it was just the wrong angle. I remember the whole thing. I was lying on the football field, and the coach was asking me if I could get up, and I was saying yeah, I could. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t move or feel anything in my whole body.”

“That’s so scary,” I breathe.

He nods. “It was, but honestly, it didn’t feel real. It didn’t even occur to me that it could be permanent. I just figured I’d get better at the hospital. But then they had to do surgery to fuse my neck, and I still couldn’t move or feel anything below my shoulders.”

“But you can move your arms…”

“Yeah, that came back.  They said it might not though, and that would’ve sucked.” He lifts his right arm and he extends his right wrist.  “I can bend and extend my elbows and extend my wrists. That’s pretty much it. But with a lot of practice, I can still do most things.”

“But you were using your fingers before when you picked up the cup…”

“That’s a trick.” He winks at me. “When I extend my wrist, my fingers bend. But I can’t move them on my own.”

I look at all the tiny buttons on his shirt. How did he do all those buttons without being able to move his fingers? It seems impossible. He probably just always leaves them buttoned.

He frowns at me. “Is this TMI?”

I shake my head. “No, not at all.”

“I’m sorry.”  He adjusts his position in his chair so that he’s sitting up straighter. “It’s just that when I go out on a date with a girl, I feel like I should explain some of this stuff straight off the bat, so it’s not awkward later.” His ears turn red again. “Not that I think this is a date. I don’t. I’m just saying…”

He looks so nervous all of a sudden that I want to hug him.  I reach out and put my hand on his shoulder. “It’s OK. Don’t worry about it.”

The right side of his lips lifts in a crooked smile, and I melt a little.

I pinch my leg under the table.  I need to quit having these feelings. Right now. I came here for one reason tonight, and it wasn’t for Ryan Porter to get lucky. I’m here to teach him a lesson. And he deserves it. He remembers the rose as well as I do—it’s the first thing he mentioned. And he didn’t even apologize for it.

He could’ve apologized. I’m sorry for humiliating you, Hannah. That would’ve been nice.

But the crazy thing is, I don’t feel angry at him anymore. I want to get this guy alone, but it’s not for revenge.

It turns out my little crush on Ryan Porter hasn’t gone away. Not by a long shot.

To be continued...